AG issues legal opinion on “tele-practice”

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“I know this is an issue in terms of how we are providing special education services to our kids, and how we are contracting to ensure that all of our kids who are entitled to these services receive them.” – Superintendent Jon Fernandez

Guam – The Guam Education Board held their monthly meeting last evening and on the agenda was the discussion of the attorney general’s legal opinion concerning telemedicine, or the remote access of public health services.

One example of telemedicine includes a service called “tele-practice” otherwise known as speech, language, and hearing therapy. With advancements in telecommunication technology and an increase in the demand for these services it is no surprise that the Guam Board of Allied Health is inquiring whether these services could be authorized on Guam.

The AG determined in her opinion that telemedicine of various health professions may be recognized by the Guam Legislature, but off-island supervision is not. Meaning, health services may be accessed remotely provided there is a supervisor on-island.

For the Guam Department of Education, the legal interpretation will be reviewed by their Special Education Division. According to Superintendent Jon Fernandez, GDOE is not yet utilizing tele-practice, but is determining what the steps are to provide the much-needed remote therapy to our public school students.

He tells PNC: “I know this is an issue in terms of how we are providing special education services to our kids, and how we are contracting to ensure that all of our kids who are entitled to these services receive them.”

Fernandez says SPED will ultimately determine the impact the legal decision will have on the public schools.

“SPED will determine whether this will allow us to move forward and contract telemedicine practitioners versus continuing to struggle with the personnel shortage we have with our specialized Allied Health occupations. I think tele-practice is a way to alleviate that shortage, but we have to determine exactly how we are supposed to move forward.”

Meanwhile, Yolanda Gabriel from GDOE’s Special Education Division was not available for comment as of news time.